Telehealth Industry Happenings December 2018

Posted by Andy Edwards | January 2, 2019 |

The last month of 2018 went out with a bang. Telehealth remained in the news with some innovative announcements by mega-health system UPMC and mega-grocery store chain Giant Eagle. It seems retail is fully embracing telehealth and healthcare is using retail grocery, pharmacy, and other big box stores to increase access to care with an in-store virtual experience. UPMC joined BayCare Health in Florida, Kaiser Permanente, and New York-Presbyterian in a variety of telehealth-driven service offerings designed to increase patient access to care and the convenience of receiving healthcare services.

Other innovations last month included major health system expansions of remote patient monitoring at Ochsner in the southern states and telemedicine to improve treatment for brain tumors at Penn in the east. Finally, in Long Island, a new telestroke program was just launched that will offer immediate care via mobile units designed to respond quickly to a possible emergency.

Here’s what happened in the telehealth industry in December 2018.

Telehealth Goes to the Grocery

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) announced a deal last month to partner with Giant Eagle to place connected health kiosks in their supermarkets. The future vision of the partnership is for consumers to be able to conveniently shop for pharmacy and grocery products as well as healthcare in one trip.

MHealth Intelligence reported on this unusual idea in December. The pilot will roll out Anywhere Care kiosks in three giant Eagle stores and then plans to expand across the 410-store grocery retailer in the near future. UPMC Anywhere Care is already available as a phone app, or on tablets and desktops. With this interesting partnership, the product will soon be available as a true retail offering that is new but certainly not unprecedented in healthcare.


In 2017, BayCare Health System in Florida joined forces with supermarket chain Publix in a similar mHealth kiosk setup. The kiosks are branded as BayCare HealthHubs and offer MHealth devices that measure weight, BMI, pulse, and blood pressure. The kiosks send the data via a secure channel to the patient’s doctor. The kiosk also offers free healthcare and wellness information. According to mHealth Intelligence, the system is also rolling out 25-telehealth clinics within the markets, allowing shoppers to have a virtual health visit with their doctor for non-urgent care. It’s a trade-off of sorts; BayCare is allowing Publix to handle in-house pharmacy tasks for the system hospitals across a four-county geographic region.

The same year NewYork-Presbyterian joined forces with Walgreens to offer telehealth kiosks in the pharmacy chain in and around New York City. The kiosks offer high-definition video conferencing for patients along with connected devices to measure temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and dermatology conditions. The kiosks can also fill prescriptions and send them to the patient’s preferred pharmacy.

Not to be outdone, Kaiser Permanente is opening 31-retail telehealth clinics across Southern California Target stores. The clinics will have midlevel staffing but a telehealth link to a physician. They will offer:

  • Basic dermatology
  • Monitoring and treatment for chronic diseases like diabetes or high cholesterol or blood pressure.
  • Treatment of minor illness such as strep, vaccinations, sinus infections, asthma, flu, and cold.

System leadership was quoted in Patient Engagement HIT:

The convenience factor is likely going to keep retail health clinics open. These alternative care sites help patients with busy schedules access necessary care that prevents small ailments from escalating to larger issues.

The goal of these initiatives, like telehealth in general, is to increase the patient’s access to care. It’s an innovative way to innovate healthcare, engaging patients in new ways while making it easier to receive treatment.

Remote Care Monitoring for Implanted Cardiac Patients

Ochsner Health System, Southwest Louisiana’s largest health system, announced in December that they were introducing a new remote patient monitoring service for patients with implanted cardiac care devices. The system bills itself as “one of the nation’s most progressive users of connected care technology,” according to mHealth Intelligence. Indeed, Ochsner has been known for decades as staying on top of the latest innovations both in clinical medicine as well as technology.

The new service will cover patients in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, offering remote monitoring for patients with implanted defibrillators, pacemakers, and loop recorders. The data can be transmitted quickly and close to real-time, and the new service is fully integrated with the system’s EHR.

The effort by Ochsner to expand RPM services is part of a growing trend to respond to the CMS expansion of reimbursement for remote patient monitoring that happened earlier in the year.

Penn Medicine Launches Connected Care in Eight States

Penn Medicine, part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, is launching a connected care platform within the Penn Brain Tumor service line. The service will reach patients in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington D.C. The goal is to help people diagnosed with a brain tumor that may not have access to specialty care. The center is expected to provide second opinions to patients without forcing them to travel. System leadership had this to say about the offering:

Telemedicine has elevated care options, providing a seamless experience for patients - particularly for those who need to travel long distances or have trouble traveling for appointments. Programs like this empower patients and caregivers in the decision-making process.

Mobile Telestroke Units in Long Island

In Long Island, the Stony Brook University Hospital is launching two new mobile telestroke units. These vehicles are equipped with telemedicine technology, which will connect first responders to neurologists at the hospital facilities. MHealth Intelligence says the effort cost $2.2 million and is only the first step in this new initiative.

The mobile units have CT scanners that will show whether the patient has a brain bleed or a blocked vessel. It will greatly increase the odds for stroke victims, whose lives literally depend upon fast assessment and treatment in the event of a stroke. The mobile unit will eliminate the time spent transporting stroke patients to the hospital for urgent care. Today, with telehealth technology, first responders have the tools to treat patients as soon as they come in contact with them.

New Year, New Telehealth Initiatives

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